The Trip I’ll Never Forget
Armed with new Stumpjumpers that we purchased with money earned from a couple of summers working as lifeguards and a collection of old camping gear we borrowed from our parents, we thought we had everything we could possibly need for an epic adventure. My bikepacking setup included a JanSport backpack filled with a few remaining pencils, pens and papers from its previous life as a school book bag. My sleeping bag was fixed to the top of the backpack, a top-heavy and inconvenient way of keeping it from rubbing on the rear tire, and my food supply was a combination of Clif Bars, canned raviolis, and a smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. To make things worse, our trip was set for the middle of January. Lack of shelter was quickly going to be a problem.
At the start of any trip, adrenaline and excitement can fuel one to charge ahead with no thought about the torture that might be in store. My worn-out backpack, with a serious lack of support and topped with a full-size sleeping bag, swayed side to side as I tried to navigate my way through singletrack trails. To make matters worse, adjusting the suspension to compensate for the load wasn’t something Nick or I thought to do. Having 50-percent sag in your suspension is far from efficient, but adding the side-to-side swaying momentum from my heavy pack amplified the issue.
Setting up camp
As you can imagine, our scheduled stop got pushed deep into the day as we fought our way to the campsite just in time to beat the sunset. Freezing cold, hungry and ready to kick our feet up, we scurried for wood so we could start a campfire. Unfortunately, the only wood we could find was damp, which made it hard to get our fire started. Fortunately, we persevered, using a small flame to dry the remaining piece of wood we would need to cook our meals and stay warm throughout the evening. As night set in, we began to look around for dry places to sleep. Nick had packed a small hammock that we managed to set up close to the contained campfire. Meanwhile, I found myself dragging a wooden picnic bench as close to the fire as the chain attached would let me. I proceeded to lay out my sleeping bag on top of the table where I planned to get at least a few hours of sleep.
We woke up the next morning and scarfed down the remaining food we had brought and journeyed on to complete the second half of the ride. The steep, rolling terrain posed a challenge that required us to push our inefficient bikes up each climb. Tired, broken and desperate for a fastfood burger, we pushed on, hiking through puddles and trying to make up time on any pedalable sections. Before we knew it, we found ourselves back at the car with a huge sigh of relief. We had conquered our mission and lived to talk about it. It was a ride I’ll never forget and one that has haunted me ever since, keeping me from wanting to try bikepacking again. At least the next time around I hope to be wise enough to plan accordingly.